NLP Part 1: “Anchoring” Your State of Mind for Success

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.  – Thomas Edison

Last week I started my first 2 day (of a 9 day course) in NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) with Thought Models, a local company specializing in providing clients with the tools to positively change their world and bring about success.

NLP is what is called a “meta discipline;” which is the study of the structure of subjective experience and what can be calculated from those experiences. It is an approach using models of excellence, communication, personal development and some applications found in psychotherapy – but it is NOT therapy. The title refers to a stated connection between the neurological processes (“neuro”), the language we use to navigate our environment (“linguistic”), and the behavioral patterns which sums up the human condition. All of this plays an integral role that we learn through experience (“programming”) and can be organized to achieve specific goals in life. Or more simply put; Thought Models sums up NLP as such;

“Neuro: The Mind-Body: how we function; physiological and mental states and activities.

Linguistic: The language we use to describe, categorize, communicate about and make sense of our world; how we communicate our experience to others.

Programming: The stories we use to interpret experience; repeating sequences of behavior and patterns of thought that help us or hinder us; strategies that get us what we want.”


In NLP a person can learn to develop their skills at communicating more effectively and perhaps even learn a “technique” to broaden their own scope of process and perception within their own model of experience.  In Harry Nichols, most recent blog post about “modeling” he puts it quite simply as; “Modeling is a process used to discover and codify patterns of excellence as demonstrated consistently by top performers in any field.”

I would like to feature an application that has proven to be very effective in my own life and in my motivational seminars and public speaking engagements. It all has to do with setting an intention, building a vision and setting goals. It’s called learning to anchor, or anchoring.

Anchoring are those “triggers” or “buttons” that can decide the fate of our day. Those subconscious thought or emotions; which, can be positive or negative and will untimely determine the level of our success as we move through our day. Anchors can be very powerful and purposeful tools for managing our emotional states. Anchors are stimuli that call forth states of mind – thoughts and emotions. Anchors can be visual, auditory or kinesthetic. We are affected by anchors throughout our lives.


Pavlov’s Dog: The Birth Place of Anchoring

Remember Pavlov’s dog! In the 1950s a Russian scientist, named Ivan Pavlov researched the connection of the use of dogs, stimuli and the ringing of a bell.  Anchoring is reminiscent of Pavlov’s experiments with dogs. Pavlov sounded a bell as the animal was given food. The animals salivated when they saw the food. After some parings of the bell and the food, the bell alone elicited salivation. This stimulus and response, and later on he would call this research “Pattern Matching” or “Stimulus-Response.”  Pattern Matching is a primary brain process, which is used to make sense of the world, a learned response to experience, where we create positive or negative habits, as well as the place where we develop addictions or chronic conditions.


Pattern Matching:

Every time we have a new and significant experience, our subconscious – the brain, does a database search for a similar experience and then stores that new experience in the same category. This is called a neural network, where our brain filters and files away our daily sensory feedback into “implicit memory”. Pattern matching is directly linked to most of the phobias and panic related conditions that are so prevalent in today’s modern world. Take the spider for instance, one “panic mode” I know quite well. My earliest memories of a spider incident was seeing my father jump up on the couch and scream…”spider, damn he’s a biggin.” So naturally, I jump up on the couch at 7 years old and think…. “spider’s bad” and the feeling of “scared or fear” which also thinking back brings up the feeling of laughter and some of my funniest moments on weekends at my dads.


For example the dreaded spider:

  • See a spider = mass freak out
  • Read the word spider = mass freak out (my brain brings up the image)
  • Feeling something on the skin that could be a spider = mass freak out (my brain brings up that physical creepy crawly feeling).  = PHOBIA and PATTERN MATCHING.

Now, without pattern matching, learning would be literally impossible. Therefore, it’s not the pattern matching that is the issue here, it’s the meaning in which we place on that experience that needs to be “re-patterned.”  It may be difficult, but not impossible to “re wire” or “re pattern” some of these networks and depending on the vested connection with the experience, anchoring can help to either reduce the “phobia” if it’s a negative pattern or bring about a positive state by anchoring that experience to a direct result.

How do you Anchor?

First we need to define a “state.” In Tony Robbins Ted Talk, “Why We Do What We Do.” Robbins discusses the “invisible forces” that motivate everyone’s actions and simples says the 2 invisible forces that decide peoples destiny or success:


  1. state – in the moment
  2. state – long term.

Robbins then takes it further to then ask 3 questions once these states are more clear and they are;

  1. What am I going to focus on? (feeling/ past, present, future)
  2. What does it mean? (thought)
  3. What are you going to do? (Action)

If we can tap into the right emotion and state you can change behavior.  We start by giving a “state” a name – thus we give it meaning and we pattern match to a positive anchor.

Identify the emotional state you want to focus on and then write them down. Choose 3 states you know you will use in the very near future, and ensure that these states are clear of any negativity or uncertainty. They must be states that have served you a successful outcome. Choosing to feel powerful and enthusiastic is specific and something you can work towards using the NLP Anchoring technique.


The Steps to Anchoring

Select a desired state i.e. specifically how you want to feel. Recall a particular time in your life when you felt the desired state. Pick a powerful example.

Simple Tips:

  • Only anchor an intense state, one that evokes a strongly felt experience.
  • Pick an experience that is pure and not mixed with other feelings.
  • Use unique anchors so the state is accessed at will.
  • Timing is crucial, fire the anchors before the peak and release before the peak declines.

For example, in the class I chose 3 states that will serve me in starting a new position with Copeman Healthcare and Fit to Train Human Performance Systems and that state is “Focus.” I then chose a state that reflects my new relationship “trust’ a state that is the foundation of all relationships, even the one with our-selves. Then I chose “compassion,” a state to keep me balanced which is the grounding force of many of my decisions and how I visually represent myself to the world. These 3 states will serve me over the next few weeks as I build my practice in a new clinical space.

How to access an anchored state; requires four skills:

  • Access a powerful state
  • Recognize when to set the anchor
  • Anchor the state as specifically as possible
  • Fire the anchor when required

One final thought I would like to leave you with. Working in the health and sciences field, one of the largest obstacles I come up against is the age old “excuse cycle.’ We all make them and we are always establishing “anchors” as to why we cannot achieve something or fit it into our life. It’s the age old conundrum of the modern human condition. Tell me if these sound familiar:

  • I can’t afford it (money)
  • I’m too busy (time)
  • I don’t want to travel that far (time management)
  • I don’t have the experience (experience)
  • I don’t have the right contacts (contacts)
  • I don’t want to wake up early or stay later (time management)
  • It’s just to hard, I don’t have the energy (time)

These are all linguistic anchors we create every day that prevent us from achieving our goals, and they also place blame elsewhere by pointing the finger in another direction…away from where it should be pointed and that is towards the “me,” because quite simply the only thing preventing you from change – is yourself and your actions (or lack of).

Robbins speaks of “resources vs. resourcefulness,” where we continually blame a lack of resources, rather than turning that negative anchor into an opportunity for positive change. I won’t sugar coat this for you – the reason you can’t is because you won’t. Let’s turn that into you CAN and you WILL. Some of my favorite “excuses” or “anchors” that do not serve you in your path to success are:


Resources vs. Resourcefulness:

(I don’t have) Time >>>> (I do have) Creativity >>transition>> (24 hours in a day)

(I don’t have) Money >>> (I do have) Determination >>transition>> (budget 2 less Starbucks a day)

(I don’t have) Contacts >>> (I do have) Perseverance >>transition>> (network. make connections)

(I don’t have) Experience >>> (I do have) Passion >>transition>> (experience is a skill, passion is a trait)


For the next week, I would encourage you to observe yourself and others and start thinking about what anchors you have established in your life that may hold you back. Once you recognize these anchors, you can then start the process of detaching from these anchors and establishing new anchors and patterns to replace them, so that you can harness a state that will serve you better towards your goals.

Over the course of the next few months I will be featuring a review of each of our NLP training workshops. For more information on how to get involved in NLP please click on this link and contact master coach Harry Nichols with Thought Models!



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